1994 All Over Again?

by Joshua Foust on 7/26/2009 · 7 comments

Western troops are finding things to be not what they thought in Helmand…

As the troops advance, they are learning uncomfortable facts about their local allies: villagers say the government’s police force was so brutal and corrupt that they welcomed the Taliban as liberators.

“The police would stop people driving on motorcycles, beat them and take their money,” said Mohammad Gul, an elder in the village of Pankela, which British troops have been securing for the past three days after flying in by helicopter.

He pointed to two compounds of neighbors where pre-teen children had been abducted by police to be used for the local practice of “bachabazi,” or sex with pre-pubescent boys.

“If the boys were out in the fields, the police would come and rape them,” he said. “You can go to any police base and you will see these boys. They hold them until they are finished with them and then let the child go.”

…right, so this would not what they thought if they went into these areas blind and with no research about the place. Unfortunately, the way things are going there (see, for example, Garmsir), that seems to be the case.

As for this phenomena, we’ve seen it in many places across the East and South. I watched the police steal money from motorists in Kapisa province, even after the Afghan National Army protested. Spencer Ackerman saw the police openly lust after a motorocycle in Paktya province, with their U.S. mentors right there. Enough places, and enough times, make it clear police corruption is endemic, and catastrophic to that whole governance the military keeps talking about.

My big question is: why? Why has it gotten to this state? Why is it, eight years on, people are reaching out to the Taliban for protection from child-raping police officers? There is no excuse for this, from anyone. None.

Update: A 2007 Dutch documentary in Uruzgan, just to the north and east of this area, notes with dismay (minute 2:55) the pervasive presence of trophy “lover-boys.”

Again: we have no excuse for finding this a surprise in 2009. None.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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BruceR July 27, 2009 at 11:47 am

Not an excuse, but an explanation perhaps:


Toryalay Shirzay July 27, 2009 at 10:53 pm

The Brits are trying to cop out as they have lost more people than they are willing to pay for the war on terror.They don’t want to admit that this war requires no less sacrifice than fighting fascism and nazism.At this junction in history,The US AND NATO can never afford to lose this war in Afghanistan for alot of reasons not the least of which is alot of evil has arisen out of this land in the past several centuries.The Taleban is special creature whose personality and mindset is not fathomable by westerners as evidenced by Brits thinking there are moderate Talibans;fat chance!!It is very difficult for westerners to believe this fact about the Taliban and my hunch is they are terrified by this: The Talebans really do love fighting and the fiercer the fight ,the better they enjoy it!!no kidding!!They feel they are going to heaven either way,kill or be killed!!So now you cannot claim you weren’t forewarned.If the US and NATO want to play mr.nice guy in Afghanistan,that is their choice in which case the rest of us be prepared to see very painful misery and humiliation on their part.
The above can be said to be the tip of the iceberg considering what follows.When the Arabs invaded the lands currently called Afghanistan in the 7th century,they imposed not only Islam,but also all their cultural norms,customs,names and their habits;separating men from women is one of them.From this custom comes the practice of “bachabazi” which involves sexual molestation of very young boys since the men have no chance of dating women there.This ugly practice is common in all Moslem countries and they all keep very silent about it .The perpetraters do it to maintain and enforce dominance over the victims and also because the same thing happened to most of them.The victims keep absolute silence as it is a big big shame.This is root of violence in Afghanistan in particular as about 50 to 80% of Afghan men have been sexually molested at some point when they were growing up.All those armchair experts,don’t be alarmed ,as this is just a fact of Afghan life.In AFGHANISTAN, the vast majority of those who have money or a little influence or connections,or mullahs who get to be with young boys all day to teach them Koran,these all child molesters.These molesters brag about their deed and express great pride .And now every one of these get most of the money that comes into the country while the silent victims may get scraps here and there.This is why the police is so corrupt and the the government.This society is full of evil most of it covered so outsiders cannot see.This place needs thorough cleansing with strict enforcement ;any mr.nice guy will end up doing an half-assed job here in which case it will blow in their face sooner or later.I left out a lot of info;if you want more,contact right here.

Afghan Atheist July 28, 2009 at 1:48 am

@ Shirzay,
While I agree with much of what you have said, let’s not disregard the fact that this is a counter-insurgency. Losing public support is not an option, especially given the lack of commitment towards helping the PEOPLE of Afghanistan towards a recovery. Giving in to the Taliban would be dangerous but the fact that warlords and drug cartels have a firm grip on power is no less detrimental, both to the occupying forces as well as the Afghan people.
This is a long fight, it took decades of investment by “the free world and Sheikhs” to create a fertile ground for these reactionary religious nutjobs – it will take decades to bring them out of their misery.
You gave them the Quran+AK47, now give them, the people, other options. Don’t fight and fund the “status quo” at the same time.
Once there is a critical level of commitment – investment into educating and “empowering” the population seems to be the only viable option. It is not clear as to what they are doing right now, but it seems to be ridiculous sham and waste of precious time and resources.

Turgai Sangar July 28, 2009 at 8:25 am

“When the Arabs invaded the lands currently called Afghanistan (…) this custom comes the practice of “bachabazi” (…) this ugly practice is common in all Moslem countries and they all keep very silent about it.”

🙂 Manmanman… It is more widespread in effeminate Persian cultures yes, but not in Turkic ones for example. As for its alleged ‘Islamic’ origins: wouldn’t make it more sense to trace it back to the ancient Greeks (cf. in the wake of Alexander the Great’s arrival in Central Asia long before Islam) where pederasty was a status symbol among notables?

Prithvi July 29, 2009 at 3:23 am

Turgai, among the Turkic peoples there was some form of this practice. According to literary tradition in the region, Mahmud of Ghazni was supposed to have had a romantic relationship with his slave and military subordinate Ayaz.

Turgai Sangar July 29, 2009 at 8:32 am

Yes Prithvi that is correct. It was the same at the court of the emir of Bukhara. Yet most of these courts were heavily persianised.

michaelhancock July 29, 2009 at 9:53 am

Turan and Iran… Pederasty versus Bride-Kidnapping? 😛

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